Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Steal

The street was dinghy, dirty and dark. Not many people liked to walk in this backdrop and they were right about their opinion. The place was in the oldest parts of the city and unless someone wanted to be mugged or robbed, not many even came through here.
And the place had a peculiar kind of silence. The one which said a lot but with no one to hear.
And right now the silence was broken by a sniffing from a young boy – a young Karan who was slightly less than ten years.
"You are not supposed to steal!" the usual round face of the honest shopkeeper, which always smiled was now looking stern and angry, as the man was standing in front of his small provision store which was now one of the important places in the locality.
The shopkeeper was honest, impeccably so and his products were good. Despite the locality, the man's shop ran well.
"I was hungry," the little Karan, to whom the man was speaking said sullenly as he was clutching the thick handbag in his hands. "I do not have money."
Karan was dressed in torn dirty clothes and looked every inch like one of the orphans on the road.
Karan's talk earned him a slap from the man. A sharp one – Just one to jar the boy back into his senses. Karan clutched his cheeks and looked at the man struggling, not to cry.
And after hitting the boy, the shopkeeper hugged Karan tightly as Karan howled even more.
"Stealing is not the way!" the man told Karan after Karan had calmed down a few seconds later and the shopkeeper was still looking slightly stern. "You work and you earn money and you buy food so that you do not feel hungry."
"Work?" Karan ask confused.
The shopkeeper nodded slowly. "You will work in my shop starting today!"
The shopkeeper pointed at the handbag in Karan's hands. "Give it to me and I will hand it over to the woman who is outside. The woman from whom you stole it!" The shopkeeper said angrily.
"S..S..She is here?" Karan asked looking terrified.
"She knows that I know things which happen around the place here. Which is why she came to me, telling me one of the urchins from here stole the money!" The man said looking disgusted at the word "urchins". "She wanted to go to the police. I just managed to convince her that I would get her money back and that there was no reason to involve the law in this!"
Karan handed over the handbag to the shopkeeper as he was looking terrified.
The shopkeeper smiled as he took the handbag. "That is a good boy!" The shopkeeper said kindly. "Stay here and I will be back."
Karan was still sniffing as he saw through the crack in the wall and he saw the shopkeeper talk to the stout, strong woman from whom Karan had "taken" the handbag. The woman was looking furiously angry as she looked at the shopkeeper who handed over the handbag to her.
From the back of the shop, Karan heard snatches of conversations and saw the pleading expression of the shopkeeper. Finally after ten minutes of yelling herself hoarse, the woman walked away from there with a huff, clutching the handbag tightly.
It had been ages since Karan had walked through the street. After his fifteenth year he had not been here and things had normally moved on. He had pushed himself through college and was now running a cab service, which was already one of the most preferred one in the city.
And right now nothing much bothered Karan. There was a time when these very streets had seemed terrifying to him. But now, the same jostling people, the same running almost brought a sense of deja vu in him.
Karan reached the provision store which still ran in the same place and the shop was still something that people still preferred to come to.
"I want a chocolate!" Karan said as he pointed at the most expensive one in the small shop, unable to hide a smile.
The wizened bushy eyebrows of the shopkeeper still looked calm and collected and the wavy hair of the shopkeeper was liberally dozed in gray. But as far as Karan was concerned, nothing changed with the shopkeeper.
"Which one....?" the shopkeeper asked and suddenly stopped as he saw Karan.
A beautiful smile came on the shopkeeper's face and the few people around the shop just could not understand why such a handsomely dressed customer suddenly fell at the feet of the shopkeeper only to be hugged tightly around the counter.
"For you, the chocolate is free!" the shopkeeper said as he handed over the goods to the other people as Karan waited patiently for his turn. Karan saw small boys inside the shop looking slightly happy as they were putting the goods together which the customers had asked.
"I have not taken anything for free for a really long time." Karan said honestly. "I was taught not to take anything belonging to others," Karan said feeling for his wallet as the shopkeeper laughed.
Karan frowned as he realized that his purse was missing. A frantic search six seconds, later led him to the inevitable conclusion. His wallet really was missing.
The shopkeeper handed over the chocolate to Karan. "As I said it is free!" the shopkeeper told Karan. "Probably you forgot your wallet at your home." The shopkeeper said a little carefully.
Karan did not take the chocolate as he got up.

"Probably!" Karan agreed wholeheartedly. "Just tell the kid to eat well," Karan told the shopkeeper with a smile as he walked away from the shop. 

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